Open discussion thread: Ask questions, share opinions

by susan on March 29, 2010

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Time for another open thread. For those of you new to the blog, the open discussion thread is your place to ask questions, sound off on town issues, or share information with other readers. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Ask questions about programs in town or the town itself
  • Post a note about things that you’re selling or giving away, or things that you want
  • Share notices about upcoming events (Southborough or otherwise)
  • Register your thoughts on town issues or news stories
  • Point out interesting or helpful resources

You can add comments to the thread throughout the week. Check back often to see new comments. (If you read the blog via email or RSS, you might want to check the site from time to time for new comments.)

To view past open discussion threads, click here.

1 123 March 29, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Does anyone know the history of what appears to be an old road running east to west just south of 153 Middle Road? It’s pretty straight and looks like it is 15-20 feet below the “natural” grade of the area.

2 John Mauro, Jr April 1, 2010 at 12:34 PM

A book was published in 1975 about the Boston and Worcester Trolley line called Trolleys Along the Turnpike by O.R. Cummings. I don’t know if the Library has a copy of the book or not.

The line from Boston came through Southborough on its way to Worcester along Route 9 from Framingham to White’s Corner (Rt. 9 & Breakneck Hill Road), where one line diverged north on White Bagley Road to Marlborough. The main line continued southwesterly where it went somewhere through where the DPW property is located, crossed under Middle Road just south of Route 9, crossed over Parkerville Road where the bridge abutments are located, and continued along to where the current Banfill Lane is located into Westborough and on to Worcester.

3 southsider March 29, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Driving on the south side of Parkerville road has become downright dangerous. The section between Gilmore Road and Route 9 is simply a mess. The condition of the road is so bad that drivers are more intent on dodging sinkholes and potholes and pay less attention to pedestrians, bicyclists and even other cars. And it’s been this way for a few years now! the patches have patches. Considering the amount of traffic, this section of road is a disgrace. I find it unsightly and certainly does nothing to improve property values over there. And once clear of this obstacle path, drivers then hit this wonderfully wide straightaway to make up for lost time… too bad for us that it runs right by one of our grammar schools and the busiest set of ball fields in town.
I know there are other roads in town that are also in bad shape but few ( if any ) get this volume of traffic coupled with the school/playground issues. The bad section needs permanent repair, and maybe it’s time for some of those north side speed humps to better control traffic near the Finn School and ball fields.

4 John Kendall March 29, 2010 at 11:38 PM

Been on Southville Road lately??

5 John Kendall March 29, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Could that be part of the old trolley line? That can be seen better near Skylar Drive. the old bridge abutments are still there

6 Al Hamilton March 29, 2010 at 8:04 PM

Can we really spend all of the money in our Stabilization Fund?
As a fiscal conservative I have, in the past, argued that we should not spend any of the money in the towns Stabilization Fund for any purpose. In the past 3 years I have come to the opposite conclusion and now believe that the fund serves no useful purpose.
What is the Stabilization Fund? – The Stabilization Fund, sometimes called the Rainy Day Fund, represents tax money that was taken from citizens for which there was no corresponding expenditure at the time the money was taken. We accumulated nearly $3,000,000 by the end of the 1990’s in this fund. Since that time we have been making withdrawals to fund capital items and operating budgets. The current balance is about $890,000
Shouldn’t we have a Savings Account? – No. Businesses and individuals need savings to guard against potential losses of income. Towns on the other hand have no such risk. Towns can compel revenue. The Town of Southborough can raise as much money as it needs through taxes. All that is required is the basic exercise of democracy a vote at Town Meeting and in some cases a vote at the ballot box. If you want to find out how serious the town is about raising this money, once authorized, try not paying your property taxes for a while, a lien with interest will eventually appear on your property. So there is no need to maintain this fund to protect a revenue stream.
Shouldn’t we have this money in case we need a major repair? Most town assets are fully insured. In addition we maintain capital maintenance funds to cover building repairs and also have a fund of money called the Reserve Fund to cover unexpected expenses. The Reserve Fund currently funded at $200,000/year is has not been exhausted in recent memory. In addition the Stabilization Fund can only be tapped by a 2/3 vote of town meeting making rapid access in response to a major problem improbable.
If we spend the Stabilization Fund down won’t it affect our bond rating? – No, our bond rating did not improve when we were accumulating money in the Stabilization Fund and has not declined as we have spent from it. All rating agencies will tell you not to spend the stabilization fund but an Advisory Committee analysis could find no correlation between the level of a towns cash reserves and its bond rating. What matters to the bond rating companies is the average income of the residents. Wealth towns tend to stay wealth and poor towns tend to stay poor. Wealthy towns are less risky that poor ones over the long run. Even if our credit rating were to change it would not make a material difference. Today (3/29/10), the difference between a 10 year AAA and AA municipal bond is 0.06%.
Shouldn’t we save money for a capital item? No, firstly the town can borrow at very attractive, tax free rates. Further if we borrow for a capital asset, be it a school or fire engine, then the people who enjoy the benefit of that asset pay for it through taxes. Using Stabilzation funds means that people that may no longer live in town are paying for assets we enjoy.
There are a variety of other reasons not have a Stabilization Fund. The biggest reason this year is that the fund is often called the “rainy day fund” and it is pouring out. This year we should spend the fund down to 0 and use the money to provide tax relief to hard pressed tax payers. For those who believe that the fund should be replenished I suggest that you lobby to use some of the $2,300,000 sitting in the overlay reserve fund that is the result of the telecoms suit for that purpose when the funds come available.
There is an excellent analysis of the folly of the Stabilization Fund that was done by John Butler on the Advisory Web site which I encourage anyone interested in the subject to read. Go to: http://southboroughadvisory.nexo.com/resources and look under FY 2011 Documents “Advisory Consideration of Cash Reserve Questions 2-26-10”

7 John Kendall March 30, 2010 at 8:48 AM

Al, as much as I agree with fiscal conservancy, especially now, always remember “If you have it, they shall spend”

8 Mom March 29, 2010 at 8:29 PM

I remember seeing a discussion a while back about the new-ish Southborough street signs peeling. Every day I drive by the Framingham Road sign that’s disintegrating and wonder when it’s going to be replaced. Anyone know what’s going on with this (admittedly) non-pressing but slightly annoying issue?

9 Annette Flaherty March 30, 2010 at 7:03 PM

One would thing that they would be under warranty- they’re only a few years old!!

10 Marge Coldwell April 18, 2010 at 1:40 PM

The sign at the corner of Middle Rd. and Gen. Henry Knox is in really sad shape also.

11 Donna McDaniel March 29, 2010 at 9:32 PM

I think John Kendall is correct… it was the trolley to Worcester. Driving down Middle Road south of Rte. 9 you pass through two of the stone abutments. There are some interesting pieces about the trolley in the town’s history, Fences of Stone, including the time that a car was hijacked by some teenage boys who went joy riding and managed to elude the police when the ride ended.

12 123 March 30, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Thank you John K. and Donna for your responses. That’s an interesting bit of history. Next time I’m at Walgreens I need to pick up the book you noted.

Did the trolley go all the way from Boston to Worcester?

13 John Kendall March 30, 2010 at 9:16 PM

Get the book. Nick Noble did a fantastic job with it. I found it was well worth the purchase.

14 Chris March 30, 2010 at 9:22 AM

re: signs, there are others that remain peeling, i.e. Latisquama at the intersection w/ White Bagley, Framingham Rd & Rte. 30, Peggy Drive & Birchwood.

JFYI if anyone is looking for a copy of Fences of Stone, they have plenty of paperback copies in Walgreens, over by the photo counter.

15 Donna McDaniel March 30, 2010 at 2:44 PM

As far as I know, the trolley did go from Boston to Worcester — seems right since it was called something like the Boston and Worcester Electric Trolley/Rail -whatever. It came down Rte. 9 to White’s Corner where it divided, going off to Marlboro or going west to Worcester. Fences of Stone mentions a collision between two cars at one point.
You can also buy the book at the Museum of the Historical Society—-people are there on Tuesday mornings—-maybe check the SHS website for the hours. Another chance to buy—attend the program on Mark Twain at the Museum on 4/28. (Can you tell I’m a member and promoter of the Society?)

16 Mary Hynes April 1, 2010 at 10:22 AM

the Route 9 bridge over Lake Quinsigamond between Shrewsbury and Worcester was originally built on a causeway that used to have trolleys running on it, so perhaps that was the trolley lane to Worcester.

17 southsider April 5, 2010 at 4:19 PM

As we approach budget time and Town Meeting, I’d like to float an idea that might resonate.
Wouldn’t it be a worthwhile service for the town to provide Transfer Station staffing on Sundays?
I wouln’t expect it to cost much but it would be a big help to many of us.

18 DLD April 5, 2010 at 5:53 PM

Southsider – I second that! The issue has been raised on this blog before and I believe the objections were about having to pay time and a half on Sundays. But if that’s the case, it seems to me that it would be better to close the station on Wednesdays and have it open a half day on Sundays. The station is almost deserted on Wednesdays and packed on Saturdays. If the town is serious about getting recycling rates up it seems they could at least staff that area on Sundays

19 southsider April 6, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Glad someone else agrees. My first choice would be for even more days than Wed-Sun. In a town crawling with wildlife, leaving garbage around the house or in the garage for a few days is never preferred.
I can’t imagine the cost of a 10:00am -6:00pm shift on Sunday would be that much of a burden. And I think a great many of us would take advantage of the additional hours.
Maybe we could use the money we’ll be saving if we defer the new police car for a year to fund a pilot program at the Transfer Station to determine the value of extra hours to the population?
I know our elected officials read this blog. One of you could score big points by championing such a measure.

20 susan April 6, 2010 at 1:59 PM

The last time the topic of Transfer Station hours came up on the blog, I asked the Selectmen what they thought. You can read their responses here: http://www.mysouthborough.com/2009/08/14/when-should-the-transfer-station-be-open/.

21 southsider April 9, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Just read the 2009 thread on this topic… wow… “it’s what we’ve always done” is such a lame reason for not even considering it.
and to claim it just doesn’t make fiscal sense without even working out the numbers is also the kind of knee jerk reaction that never sits well with me ( and maybe a few more than me ).
The delta in costs to switch to M-W-F-Sat would be trivial…. and, frankly, i don’t think the added costs for an incremental 8 hours on Sunday would be so burdensome as to not pass Town Meeting…. c’mon you guys, why not pilot one of these alternative suggestions for a year and see how much use it gets… you’ll be surprised and i think southboro would stay out of receivership despite the incremental costs.

22 carrie alpert April 13, 2010 at 7:09 AM

Al,
thank you so much for speaking out at Town Meeting last night-insightful and grounding you are. I am one of the individuals who feel as though not training librarians for the 2nd year in a row and taking away the towns certification is not only a loss in terms of where people in these economic times can turn to (as was shown last night by the charts and graphs) for materials beyond books but also touches upon a moral boundary–the stratification that ventures to the library every week is vast and who am i to take that away from someone who chooses to not purchase a DVD or perhaps cannot afford one–or even better yet is making a green decision to borrow it! The other point that i would like to make this morning, is that it is life lesson to teach our children to value our librarians, i do not know a child who does not adore “Miss Kim”–you have to pay it forward.
My question for you this morning, as you obviously have such a strong hold on the understanding on the stabilization monies is this: “why can’t we, as townspeople, since it is our tax money– use the stabilization money to offset the current FY10 needs of the library? Why does everything have to be so complicated?

23 Al Hamilton April 13, 2010 at 9:55 AM

Carrie:

There is no reason why Stabilization money could not be used to fill the gap. If you wanted to take that tactic I believe you would have to take the following action:

1. Assuming you voted with the majority you would have to move for reconsideration of the Library budget. I don’t recall if this is a majority or 2/3 vote.

2. If you are successful then you could move the budget total with some amount ($18k?) funded by a transfer from the stabilization fund. This would require a 2/3 vote.

There is an upside and downside to this vote. The upside is that it may insulate you from a Prop 2.5 override risk. The downside is that it reopens the budget and you might not get the 2/3.

I will be at the meeting if you want to discuss the strategy but I probably won’t vote for it.

24 The Natural Truth April 13, 2010 at 9:36 AM

More people need to run for selectman. Thats the ONLY way things will change in Southboro. Sorry its time to get rid the “The way we’ve always done it”.

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